Meet Matt Holmes Epar Area Manager Qld/WA and GCSAQ Committee Member. Matt has been in his current role for 2 years. Read more about Matt below:
What do you love about your job?
Being able to help our members become and remain safety and environmentally compliant. I like the challenge of being presented with problems, and then finding the best solution for them.
What challenges do you face being an EHS consultant?
A lot of people are unaware of the risks course staff are exposed to every day and the regulations they must meet. I usually see 3 distinct reactions – “You’re kidding – I have to do that?”, then, “Jeez, we really are exposed”, and finally “We better do something about it, but I don’t know how”. A lot of people get frustrated at the requirements but quickly realise we are there to help keep them out of trouble with EPA and Worksafe. I always say it is better to have me tell you how to remain compliant than a regulator, because I won’t give you a fine or send you to jail!
What was your first job?
Agronomy manager straight out of university on a watermelon, rockmelon and honeydew melon farm in Nth Qld. We were the largest producers of honeydews in Australia at the time. Oh yeah, and we grew a lot of sugar cane as well. Maybe that’s where my interest in turf started, after all, sugar cane is a big grass!
What was your best job?
I have to admit it is where I am now. I get to see a lot of interesting stuff – good and bad. We have members who have risks from crocodiles to quokkas!
What was your worst job?
Probably that first job – long hours and managing fruit pickers and casual staff with zero attention to detail and no commitment beyond knock-off time.
In addition to being paid money, how else has your career created value in your life?
I do try and live by the mantra of, “If you don’t learn something new in a day it was a wasted day”. In my current role I learn a lot of things each day, and I really do get value in my life by imparting that knowledge on others.
Who was the biggest influence in your career?
I’m going to say two. Firstly, my current boss Terry Muir. I first met Terry about 14 years ago and was impressed with what he was trying to achieve for the industry, at a time when there was very little safety and environmental stewardship. He has a lot of knowledge and is always willing to share this knowledge with those who ask.
The other is my former manager at Syngenta, Henk Smith (now at Living Turf). Henk was (and still is), a great mentor and friend and an excellent source of technical knowledge to boot.
Did you think 20 years ago you would be doing what you are now?
Not at all, but for many years I think I have been subconsciously heading in the safety direction. I was always the one on the farm ensuring staff wore the right PPE, taping extension leads to the floor in Syngenta sales meetings so no-one tripped over them, and making sure everyone got home OK after a big night on the cans.
Are there any projects you have worked on that have been particularly interesting?
I was involved with a few safety committees while at Syngenta, and did a bit of work in regulatory which was interesting, and being involved with trial work for chemicals that eventually became turf registered was pretty exciting. The last 2 years have been the most rewarding though, seeing clubs with little WHS compliance knowledge grow into a lot more awareness and making solid improvements.
Describe your team
Epar is a relatively small organisation. I work remotely, but in our Newcastle office there is Terry Muir, Leanne Sullivan and Madeline Felton, who our Qld members would probably know quite well, along with Terry’s son Liam, who looks after our NSW members, and in Melbourne, Nathan Tovey, who looks after our Vic, SA and Tas business.
Do you have any advice for someone interested in this field/job?
If you are interested in a job in EHS compliance, the best attribute you can have is attention to detail and a willingness to do a lot of reading. Perhaps most importantly the ability to interpret the meaning of often confusing legislation and turn it into a real-world solution that is easy, compliant and does not cost the earth.
How do you prepare yourself for emerging trends and changes in the industry?
The EHS requirements in Australia are not going to get any less as the years go by, and it is hard for a golf club to keep up with it, which is why epar exists – we keep up with changes so the club then remains compliant.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Look after your course environment, work safely, encourage others to do the same, go home at the end of each day with no injuries, and enjoy what you do!